For this event, a school visit is carried out to showcase experiments from different areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) that also involve an artistic component to further embed the concepts. In the runup to the event, some volunteers need to be recruited so that a year group from a school can be split into multiple groups that rotate around the various work stations. One lesson can be scheduled per activity, split into the STEM demonstration and an arts component, and the school visit can then take up the whole school day if desired. This event description is modelled on STEAM School Malta, and potential demonstrations can be taken from:
The main aim of STEAM School is to engage schoolchildren with STEM subjects in novel and creative ways. This is approached through inquiry based learning and can provide a more well rounded understanding of scientific concepts already taught in school through demonstrations or experiments, as well as allowing children to express their creative abilities.
STEAM School also allows the volunteers carrying out the workshops to hone their communication skills and gain experience outside of their current studies or work. By interacting with the children and allowing them freedom in the artistic component, there is an element of co-creation of knowledge and this can serve to give both parties a deeper understanding of the subject.
General Structure: Complex Project
For STEAM School, a more complex structure is appropriate, as volunteers need to be recruited and trained in the demonstrations through a workshop or other means. This is followed by liaising with local schools, as cooperation from them is required to take over a school day with the support of teachers who will be on hand to supervise the groups of students.
Thus, STEAM School involves the preparation of two separate parts: volunteer recruitment and the delivery of a workshop for them, as well as planning the actual school visit and being on hand for support throughout the day, making sure that volunteers are getting on with the demonstrations and resolving any other issues that arise.
Main Event Duration: Full day
Project Duration: Several weeks / Several months
The school visit as main event can take up a full day to allow groups of students to rotate around the different work stations. In the runup to this, several weeks or maybe months should be allowed to recruit a sufficient number of volunteers and train them in the delivery of the content, as well as establishing links with local schools and working out a schedule with them to ensure there is full support for this project at the school itself.
2.1 Staff & Volunteers
Since many workshops are delivered at the same time, it is crucial to recruit volunteers that are happy to deliver experiments and demonstrations to schoolchildren. University students can serve as a recruiting pool, but you could also branch out into companies that encourage their employees to reach out to society.
The core organising team should be able to prepare the experiments and host a workshop to train volunteers, who will then take over the majority of the work during the school visit. You don’t need any particular training to organise these events, but generally a background in science can prove useful.
2.2 Venue Hire
Capacity: 21 – 100 people / 101 – 1000 people
For the main event, venue hire is not required as it takes place in a school. However, a venue needs to be found to host the workshop for volunteers, and potentially to store the materials needed for the experiments. As this does not require a lot of space, try and utilise a free room, potentially liasing with a university or a private venue available to you.
The aim of STEAM School is to get as many students involved as possible, reaching an audience size above 100 if possible. However, this depends on the needs of the school as well as the availability of volunteers, since this determines how many smaller groups of students (maybe 15 – 20) can be taught at any one time.
2.3 Partner Institutions
Partner Institutions: Required
A STEAM School event must be run within a school, and it is crucial to contact possible partners early on in the process, as the event cannot be run otherwise. It will prove crucial to convince local schools that this gives added benefit to their students, and you could even arrange a site visit to show off some of the demonstrations and run teachers through the process.
Yearly / Project Budget: 501 – 1000€
This is based on a one off series of events including workshops for volunteers and the school visit. For STEAM School Malta, we are using approximately 500€ to run this event, split between perks for the volunteers, marketing the workshop and materials for experiments.
3.1 Target Audience
Target Audience: Secondary School (12 – 17)
The demonstrations listed on www.steamexperiments.com are mostly suitable for children in secondary school, and this is also the target audience of STEAM School Malta. Make sure to check which content the kids might have covered in school and therefore which knowledge to assume. You can also ascertain this during the various workshops, by simply asking the kids if they have heard of a particular concept.
When training the volunteers, make sure to train them in the specific workshops, but more general communication strategies with kids as well. They should introduce new scientific terms very carefully and make sure the basic concepts are brought across.
Marketing to enable you to carry out the actual school visits should be done on an individual basis, approaching local schools and telling them about your vision for a STEAM visit. If multiple schools can be contacted at once, e.g. through a Department of Education or a similar institution, this would also be very useful.
To recruit volunteers, gauge the availability of certain groups. University students may be keen to gain extracurricular experience, and are an easy group to target since they are in the same location and fairly homogeneous. If recruitment of individuals in other professions or through companies is desired, links should be established early on. The UK has a STEM Ambassador system that allows anyone to sign up for science communication activities, and this is supported by companies as well.
In order to reach as many people as possible, marketing can be split into an offline and an online strategy. Posters can be used for the former, or even giving talks at other events to spread the work about your project. You can also encourage participants to spread their experience by word of mouth.
As part of the online strategy, Facebook advertising has proven very useful for STEAM School Malta due to the homogeneity of the target population for volunteers (university students). Facebook pages and websites are critical, easy points of access. Asking student organisations and individuals for their cooperation can also be an effective method.
3.3 Dialogic Strategy
The demonstrations should be as interactive as possible, frequently asking the schoolchildren what they observe or what they think. Generally, the suggested demonstrations follow the IBSE model: inquiry-based science education. This starts off with the students coming up with questions of their own about the topic at hand. Since we will answer these questions through experiments, you can ask school children to think of suitable methods and to describe and explain the evidence following the prepared demonstration.
Your role as the organiser will be to train volunteers as moderators: leading the discussion and taking input from the students rather than just lecturing them. The demonstrations themselves should be as interactive as possible, allowing the groups to do their own experiments whenever possible.
4.1 Project Timeline
|Months in advance||
|Weeks in advance||
|On the day||
4.2 Single Event Structure
|30 mins-60 mins||
|60 mins – 90 mins||
|30 mins-60 mins||
|40 mins, repeated||
4.3 Personnel roles
The materials required will depend on the chosen experiments. Make sure to liaise with the school about purchasing materials: you may be able to use certain chemicals, or common lab equipment such as beakers. The classrooms, or outdoor spaces for messier experiments, should be sorted out by the school as well, alongside basic facilities such as tables and chairs.
Careful planning is required for consumables in particular. If an experiments is run by all students in each group, this can scale up very quickly and enough supplies should be at hand for this.
4.5 Other Logistics
If desired, lunch can be provided for the volunteers to thank them for their help. This can be arranged on the day, along with any emergency equipment runs, particularly for consumables.
The idea of inquiry-based learning has become popular over recent decades, allowing students to take a more active role in their education. While there are slightly different variants of this model, the main phases can be summarised as orientation, conceptualisation, investigation and conclusion.(1) A brief introduction to the topic and its context is followed by questioning and hypothesis generation, which is then tested experimentally through observation. Finally, we aim to arrive at an explanation for the observed behaviour. A recent meta analysis of studies that have investigated the efficacy of inquiry-based learning confirms that there is a positive effect on learning outcomes.(2)
Using a version of the IBSE (Inquiry-Based Science Education) model ensures that a dialogue is set up between demonstrators and students, in line with emerging approaches in science communication more generally.(3) Integrating an arts component at the end of demonstrations adds a new component to the learning experience for students as well. The case for the inclusion of arts into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) has been made repeatedly, allowing for the generation of innovative ideas rather than a focus on knowledge and technical execution.(4)
- Pedaste, M. et al. Phases of inquiry-based learning: Definitions and the inquiry cycle. Educational Research Review 14, 47–61 (2015).
- Lazonder, A. & Barbagallo, F. & Harmsen, R. Meta-analysis of inquiry-based learning: Effects of guidance. Review of Educational Research. 86(3), 681–718 (2016).
- Illingworth, S. Delivering effective science communication: advice from a professional science communicator. Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology. 70, 10–16 (2017).
- Land, M. Full STEAM Ahead: The Benefits of Integrating the Arts Into STEM. Procedia Computer Science. 20, 547–552 (2013).
The success of a STEAM School event can be documented in various ways. For example, if a quantitative strategy is desired, questionnaires may be distributed after the school visit to capture experiences of the children.
To implement a more comprehensive evaluation strategy, qualitative methods such as interviews or focus groups could be added that can give further insights into why the school visit helped students in their understanding of core concepts (or not). Teachers may also be considered part of the sample to be evaluated, as they can observe progress in the subject following the school visits, or changing perceptions of science over time.
Adapting the school visits for a repeat experience means evaluating the different experiments as well, and identifying which ones were deemed most suitable. Again, a questionnaire distributed to all the students can help with this.
While STEAM School can take many forms, a suggested list of experiments can be found on this website, giving more details about the appropriate age groups as well.